Today something happened that has never happened before, and that I never really expected would happen in a Grade 1/2 classroom: a student challenged me and caused all of us to look at things differently. Please don’t get me wrong. There was nothing disrespectful about what this student did. She merely stated that she didn’t agree with what the rest of us thought was correct, and her willingness to stand up and explain her thinking, helped all of us evaluate things differently too.
This was our second day learning about “symmetry,” and students worked in partners to explore symmetry. Some drew symmetrical pictures, others used shapes or tanagrams to make symmetrical pictures, and still others used blocks to create a variety of symmetrical designs. For our math congress, we looked at two of the symmetrical pictures that students made using various shapes. These students took photographs of their pictures, and we uploaded them into the Notebook software, so that the children could use the recording feature to discuss their learning. Below is the video of this discussion. Please note that in the first symmetrical picture, the students explained that they ran out of the correct red trapezoids, so they used the other two trapezoids instead. We were all willing to use our imaginations a bit. 🙂
After the video was done, I thought that our discussion was done, but I was wrong. One student raised her hand, and shared these insights:
All of a sudden, all of the students started to look at the picture differently. They picked up on the problems. They applied what they learned about symmetry to critique, in a good way, what this student had done. Best of all, even the person that made the shape picture, explained what he would do differently the next time. Wow! The power of self-reflection!
A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been open to students questioning what we already decided was correct. It would have bothered me that a student saw something that I didn’t see. Not any more though! As I continue to explore problem solving in math, I also realize that this learning model is about more than just getting the answer. It’s about getting students to think, to question, to explain, and to reflect. Why did it take me this long to change the way that I teach math?
Have you ever had an experience like this before? What happened? I would love to hear your stories too!
It doesn’t matter if it is math, science, language, etc., we are teaching our children to think and giving them the power to stop and say “maybe I don’t agree because…”. I love to see it happen with your grade 1/2 class because it shows us what is possible at any age level.
I was a judge at a science fair this week and I really found it irresistible to ask the students questions about what if, and patterns, and bias, and extensions, etc. Some students were really open to it and we had great discussions while others were really taken off guard and didn’t know what to say. Getting kids to think beyond a finish line keeps them wanting to learn more.
BTW – that reflect and connect not only gave great math connections but provided powerful feedback (go indicator 1.2)
Thanks Kelly! I completely agree with you too. The feedback wasn’t my initial intention, but was a wonderful bonus. 🙂
I had something similar happen to me the other day when having a dissuasion with my Kindy students (In Australia these are four year olds) about the book who sank the boat.
They children were able to make me look at the book in a way I had never done before.
It absolutely blew my mind.
What a fantastic story, Sam! Thanks for sharing it here.